Kinema Club XXII

All Day

In-person

Kinema Club XXII

Borders, Boundaries, Edges, and Fringes in Japanese Film (Studies)

A 3 day Kinema Club conference at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

June 12-14th 2024

Co-Organisers: Julia Alekseyeva (UPenn) and Jennifer Coates (Sheffield)

Conference Theme

“Borders, Boundaries, Edges, and Fringes in Japanese Film (Studies)” brings together presentations in a variety of formats that consider Japanese cinema from refreshing and unusual perspectives. The conference will run parallel to Sheffield DocFest 2024 (June 12-17th). The format includes a variety of presentation types and styles. We have two streams of parallel panels on Day 1 and Day 2, before coming together for closing roundtable sessions each day. Day 3 is devoted to ‘lightning round’ presentations with nothing scheduled in parallel.

Conference Schedule at a Glance

Day 1 (June 12th)

  • Welcome: 9:00-9:05
  • Panels 1&2: 9:05-10:35
  • Panels 3&4: 10:45-12:15
  • Roundtable 1: 13:00-14:30

Day 2 (June 13th)

  • Panels 5&6: 9:00-10:30
  • Panels 7&8: 10:45-12:15
  • Roundtable 2: 13:00-14:30

Day 3 (June 14th)

  • Lightning Round 1: 9:00-10:30
  • Lightning Round 2: 10:45-12:15
  • Lightning Round 3: 13:00-14:30

Panel Presentations

Panel 1: “Rethinking Film Exhibition”

Wednesday June 12th, 09:05-10:35

Chair: Jennifer Coates

Presentations:

  • Lucie Rydzek, “Film Festivals in the Evaluation of Japanese Films’ Quality: The French Case of Kinotayo and Cannes”
  • Kota Nakamura, “Silent Film Screenings Reframed: Post-Pandemic ‘Live Cinema’ Practices in Japan”

Panel 2: “Contemporary Auteurs”

Wednesday June 12th, 09:05-10:35

Chair: Wayne Wong

Presentations:

  • Adhy Kim, “Shinkai Makoto, Sekai-kei Anime, and Speculative Natural Histories”
  • Daniel Lik Hang Chan, “On the Verge of Throwing a Punch: The Somatic Aesthetics of Tetsuya Mariko”
  • Yue Su, “Kore-eda Hirokazu: Through the Lens of Liquid Kinship”

Panel 3: “Ghosts of War”

Wednesday June 12th, 10:45-12:15

Chair: Hannah Hyun Kyong Chang

Presentations:

  • Earl Jackson, “War over Meaning: the Interpretational Crisis in Imperial Film Culture”
  • Marcos Centeno, “Haneda Sumiko at the Crossroad of Memory, Gender and Diasporic Cinema through Japanese Settlers in Manchuria (2008)”
  • Min-kyoo Kim, “Traces of Trauma in Hiroshima: Narrating Japanese and non-Japanese experiences in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (2021)”

Panel 4: “Queering Japan and Other Subversions”

Wednesday June 12th, 10:45-12:15

Chair: Julia Alekseyeva

Presentations:

  • Sam Warnock, “Challenging the System: The Subversive Films of Yoshida Kijū and Okada Mariko”
  • Jonathan Mark Hall, “Turning Queer Circles in Japanese Film Studies”
  • Rio Katayama, “(De)Constructing ‘Japan-ness’ through the Depiction of the ‘New Normal’”

Panel 5: “Transnational Cosmopolitanisms”

Thursday June 13th, 09:00-10:30

Chair: Jamie Coates

Presentations:

  • Mieko Anders, “‘In the Ikiru Mode’: Akira Kurosawa and the Contemporary Anglophone Novel”
  • Kevin McKiernan, “1960s Japanese Cinema through a Tricontinental Framework”
  • Cerise Jackson, “Stories Beyond Japan: The Emergence of Black Anime from Afro-Samurai to Children of Ether”

Panel 6: “Pop Culture and its Affects”

Thursday June 13th, 09:00-10:30

Chair: Julia Alekseyeva

Presentations:

  • Yuki Watanabe, “Con Games and Cinematic Celebration of Triumph and Conquest: Exploring the Boundaries in Post-colonial Japan through the ‘Confidence Man JP’ Trilogy”
  • Erica Ka-yan Poon, “A Cosmopolitan Dimension of ‘Japanese’ Cinema: Manhunt Adopts Nikkatsu Borderless Film Style”
  • Moe Fujiwara, “Who/What is Sadako? Connections Between Meiji Women, J-Horror Ghosts, and Pop Culture Icons”

Panel 7: “Mixed Media and the Extra-Cinematic”

Thursday June 13th, 10:45-12:15

Chair: Kate Taylor-Jones

Presentations:

  • Irena Hayter, “On Clothes and Japanese Film: Three Fragments from a Fashionable Discourse”
  • Colleen Laird, “Japanese Cinema and Videographic Scholarship”
  • Hideaki Fujiki, “An Ensemble of Ecology: Ichikawa Kon’s Cinema of Project at Expo ’70”

Panel 8: “The Politics of Solidarity”

Thursday June 13th, 10:45-12:15

Chair: Hannah Hyun Kyong Chang

Presentations:

  • Alejandra Armendariz-Hernandez, “Transnational Film Connections between Japan and Latin America Cinema, Revolution and Cuban Japanese co-productions”
  • Antonella Morgillo, “Cinematic Narratives of Indigeneity: Ainu Culture in Ethnographic Film”
  • Kosuke Fujiki, “Compassion for the Okinawan Other: Sociopolitical References in the Film Adaptation of The Pig’s Retribution”

Lightning Round Presentations

Lightning Round 1: “Time, Space, Atmosphere”

Friday June 14th, 09:00-10:30

Chair: Jennifer Coates

Presentations:

  • Kirsten Seuffert, “Archives, Atmospheres, and Alcohol: Cruising the Mediated Casual in Tokyo Bar Culture”
  • Brooke McCallum, “Checking In on Hotel Hibiscus: Peripheral Identities and Internalized Threat in Millennial Okinawan Cinema”
  • Junko Yamazaki, “Anachronism as Method”

Lightning Round 2: “Rethinking (Cinema-)Truth”

Friday June 14th, 10:45-12:15

Chair: Julia Alekseyeva

Presentations:

  • Ran Wei, “A Film of the People, By the People, and For the People: Social Justice and Community Building in The Kamagasaki Cauldron War (2017)”
  • Caitlin Casiello, “Sex/Art/Youth Document: Sexploitation Documentary as a Peek at Japan’s 1960s”
  • Eleanor Xuhui Zhang, “Alienated Apparatus, Dangerous Ambition: Microscope and the Search for Vision in Shōhei Imamura’s Dr. Akagi (1998)”

Lightning Round 3: “The Nation and Its Discontents”

Friday June 14th, 13:00-14:30

Chair: Jennifer Coates

Presentations:

  • Lola Martinez, “Hollywood Does Japan”
  • Aaron Gerow, “War and Theory: The Case of Tsumura Hideo”
  • Paride Stortini, “Between Japan and India, Mythology and Anime: The 1992 Anime Ramayana, The Legend of Prince Rama

Roundtable Presentations

Roundtable 1: “Writing Difference”

Wednesday June 12th, 13:00-14:30

Room G03, Jessop West Building, Ground Floor, University of Sheffield

Presenters: Markus Nornes; Becca Voelcker; Julia Alekseyeva

Roundtable 2: “The Boundaries of Space and Place in Japanese Cinema”

Thursday June 13th, 13:00-14:30

Room G03, Jessop West Building, Ground Floor, University of Sheffield

Presenters: Alastair Phillips; Colleen Laird; Jasper Sharp; George Crosthwait

Abstracts

Paper Presentation Abstracts

Traditional paper presentations of 20 minutes, organised into panels of 3 papers with 30 minutes Q&A at the end of all presentations.

Panel 1: “Rethinking Film Exhibition”

Wednesday June 12th, 09:05-10:35

Lucie Rydzek, “Film Festivals in the Evaluation of Japanese Films’ Quality: The French Case of Kinotayo and Cannes”

Classifying films according to a “nationality” or a defined cultural framework has long been discussed, especially when these are considered as culturally foreign to scholars. In parallel with aesthetics studies, which are still the most common approach in film studies and hold culture-related concerns, reception studies have started to consider film festivals’ roles as quality evaluation institutions and “mediatic machines” (Rueda, 2009), not only for the visibility of foreign films, but also in the establishment of a common idea of the films, that includes both the characterization of their cultural and aesthetic features and the estimation of their ability to please and to be sold. In this paper, we focus on the French festival of contemporary Japanese films “Kinotayo”, in comparison with the Festival of Cannes in recent years, to question the role of festivals in elaborating “quality Japanese film” standards in France. Using French anthropologist Jean-Marc Leveratto’s theory of quality evaluation in film consumption as well as festival theories, we investigate the dynamics at work in the elaboration of contemporary Japanese films’ trajectory (visibility) and identity.

Kota Nakamura, “Silent Film Screenings Reframed: Post-Pandemic ‘Live Cinema’ Practices in Japan”

This paper will examine the economic and aesthetic aspects of silent film screenings accompanied by live piano performances in Japan today, situating them within the context of the emerging trend of ‘live cinema’. ‘Live cinema’, or film screenings with additional ‘live’ elements, has become a prominent trend, particularly in the UK, in the 2010s, and research abounds in the field. Japan has been experiencing a similar turn towards experiential exhibitions; however, research on the new trend is yet rare to find. This experiential shift explains the increasing popularity of Ryo Torikai’s silent film screenings accompanied by his ‘live’ piano performance in the Kansai region. His screenings take place not only in auditoriums but in unconventional venues like cafes and outdoors in urban and rural areas, attracting diverse audiences, including those who are new to silent films. Based on the field research, this paper will explore the economic and aesthetic implications of Torikai’s practice: 1) the financing and promotion of his screenings during the pandemic; 2) the relationships between his performance and film texts, which enhance the sense of liveness; 3) the audience’s interaction with the silent films during his screening, which oscillates between immersion and detachment. 

Reference: Atkinson, Sarah, and Kennedy, Helen W., “Introduction – Inside-the-scenes: The rise of experiential cinema,” Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 13, issue 1 (May 2016): 139-51.

Panel 2: “Contemporary Auteurs”

Wednesday June 12th, 09:05-10:35

Adhy Kim, “Shinkai Makoto, Sekai-kei Anime, and Speculative Natural Histories”

This paper looks at two Japanese sekai-kei (“world-type”) films by Shinkai Makoto, BEYOND THE CLOUDS, THE PROMISED PLACE (2004) and YOUR NAME (2016), both of which orient Japan on the terrain of natural history but cannot avoid referencing Japan’s post-imperial geopolitical coordinates. I show how environmental speculation expands and even exceeds conventional definitions of sekai-kei, producing a simultaneous knowing and unknowing in relation to the militarized vortex of the Cold War. Shinkai’s films provide a visual and affective experience of locating oneself in a capitalist nation (Japan) while also engaging in a vexed search for alternative spatiotemporal philosophies from within the U.S.-led post-1945 security matrix in Northeast Asia. 

Daniel Chan, “On the Verge of Throwing a Punch: The Somatic Aesthetics of Tetsuya Mariko”

Japanese cinema has a long history in depicting violence. Whether it comes from a particular genre (Yakuza film) or certain auteur-director (Seijun Suzuki), violence is usually seen as generic or exploitative pleasures. However, in the case of Tetsuya Mariko, his films tackle the issue of violence with a different angle. From his first feature Yellow Kid (2009) to Destruction Babies (2016) to a more commercial success From Miyamoto to You (2019), he tries to contemplate on the nature of violence. In an interview, Mariko mentions that ‘somaticity is sometimes said, the state of being in or having a body. Whether the film is dynamic or static, I think the main thing I’m trying to accomplish is that moment when the viewer reacts through body and emotions rather than with logic’. In this paper, I will examine how Mariko’s films frequently dissect violence in its myriad forms, unravelling the layers of social norms and personal agency that underpin acts of brutality. His characters navigate a world teetering on the precipice of chaos, blurring the lines between victim and perpetrator. In this sense, this paper explores the intricate interplay between body horror, Japanese society, and somaticity within Mariko’s works.

Yue Su, “Kore-eda Hirokazu: Through the Lens of Liquid Kinship”

This paper aims to introduce the idea of liquid kinship as a methodological framework to explore the cinema of Kore-eda Hirokazu beyond a conventional authorship approach. In the wake of the recent kinship studies in anthropology and sociology, the term liquid kinship refers to a lived everyday practice and a constantly self-making process whereby a blood-dominated, structure-oriented and norm-regulated form of kinship can be dismantled. Through Kore-eda’s films, I firstly argue that liquid kinship can generate a social viewpoint from which to investigate how cinematic and social roles in a family have been significantly liquified in the contexts regarding gender inequality, declining fertility and rapid ageing in Japan and elsewhere. Secondly, I illustrate how liquid kinship can draw anthropological and geographic attention to the spaces, places and materials in terms of the everyday practice of making kinship, for example, the cinematic spaces of the furo and the material of water. Thirdly, liquid kinship is also a cinematic term by which kinship can be conveyed through multi-sensory experiences, such as touch and skinship. By mobilising the ontological border of kinship, I argue that liquid kinship can offer multiple lenses to address Kore-eda’s films both within and beyond Japanese cinema. 

Panel 3: “Ghosts of War”

Wednesday June 12th, 10:45-12:15

Earl Jackson, “War over Meaning: the Interpretational Crisis in Imperial Film Culture”

At least since 1931, Japanese aggression on the Chinese mainland required a compliant media with a controlled message both for domestic and international

consumption. The Battle of Shanghai in 1937 and the larger campaign it inaugurated, however, made internationally-aimed rationales moot and increased the urgency for a singular National understanding of the war. Film culture came to play a crucial part in this. However, attempts to ensure that understanding through wartime films, film journals, and even the 1939 Film Law were in fact symptomatic of a crisis in meaning. This essay will address that crisis by examining specific moments in the symbiosis between film and film journals. The first situation is the bunka eiga, Shanghai (Kamei Fumio/Miki Shigeru 1938) released in February 1938 and the high profile zadankai prior to its release in a January issue of Kinema Junpo. The crisis is also evidenced in the first essay in the first issue of Eigakai, whose name was changed from 映画集団 by Imamura Taihei fearing what attention that name brought. In this inaugural issue, Imamura offers an ominous warning that the cinematic apparatus cannot account for history and can never elude an ineluctable present. Finally, I will consider the film Wakaki Hito no Yorokobi (Sato Takeshi 1943) in which a young woman (Takamine Hideko) quits the university to “serve the nation” as a photographer for a then film magazine, under the direction of two dedicated editors (Hara Setsuko and Todoroki Yukiko). All three major studios and their respective stars cooperate with the production. My readings of these intertextual relations will underscore how meaning is reconfigured across compromised representational practices and the continual attempts to isolate the visible from its implications and consequences.

Marcos Centeno, “Haneda Sumiko at the Crossroad of Memory, Gender and Diasporic Cinema through Japanese Settlers in Manchuria (2008)” [Online]

This paper is part of a project on the rediscovery of Haneda Sumiko funded by several institutions that will result in a coedited volume for Routledge. This presentation examines the singular place that her film Japanese Settlers in Manchuria (2008) has in the Japanese documentary scene from several angles: Memory Studies, Gender Studies and Diasporic Cinema. The film revisits the history of the Japanese colonisation of Manchuria through the for a long-time neglected voices of the so-called “residual orphans in China” (Chūgoku zanryū minashigo). I will argue that Haneda might be included in the category of Diasporic Cinema not only because she was born in Northern China to a family of expats but also because her interest featuring traces of lost Japanese communities that existed overseas. However, Haneda also pushes the boundaries of this genre by presenting the protagonists’ homeland as a land of trauma (or traumascape), which is presented through wartime transnational memories that are narrated with an emphasis on the gender perspective. The goal is showing how through this work, Haneda complicates common dichotomies between victims and perpetrators in Memory Studies through a complex representation of individuals who were part of the structures of domination and simultaneously become victims of them.

Min-kyoo Kim, “Traces of Trauma in Hiroshima: Narrating Japanese and non-Japanese experiences in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (2021)”

This paper argues that Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car proffers an oblique view into Hiroshima’s complex relationship with trauma. Drawing on Lisa Yoneyama’s Hiroshima Traces (1999), I pay particular attention to how Hamaguchi redresses the marginalisation of non-Japanese bodies in the cultural imaginary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima. Although the Covid pandemic forced Hamaguchi to shoot in Hiroshima, the city’s sites are not incidental to the narrative. In a key scene, Yusuke and Watari observe waste becoming cinders at the Naka Incineration Plant, which was constructed as an addendum to Hiroshima’s ‘Axis of Peace’, alongside the ‘A-Bomb Dome’ and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Recalling Derrida’s analysis of the cinder as the trace of trauma, the processual motion of the Plant inspires Yusuke and Watari to disclose their own traumatic histories. During the next scene, a Chinese and mute Korean actor rehearse their lines for Yusuke’s play in the Memorial Park. Communicating in their respective languages, the pair perform an intimate scene of reconciliation, which moves Yusuke. I suggest that Hamaguchi’s staging of non-Japanese bodies in this ‘Axis of Peace’ complicates the conventional visualisation of the (ethnically) Japanese body politic as a repository of trauma in the symbolic sites of Hiroshima.

Panel 4: “Queering Japan and Other Subversions”

Wednesday June 12th, 10:45-12:15

Sam Warnock, “Challenging the System: The Subversive Films of Yoshida Kijū and Okada Mariko”

This paper examines how filmmaker Yoshida Kijū and actress Okada Mariko created a subversive, feminist film style following their move into independent filmmaking in 1965. The studio system grew to be stifling for many directors and actors, hindering artistic freedom, and placing individuals into neat boxes. Most notably, Yoshida and Okada’s newfound independence led them to create a series of ‘woman’s films’ that challenged the post-war melodrama, with a style that allowed them to closely examine the role of the modern woman in post-war society. Scholarship on Yoshida has often downplayed the significant role that Okada played in shaping this style, as well as the importance her own star image had on allowing the pair to financially continue working on the fringes of the industry. Drawing on archival interviews and writing from both Okada and Yoshida, my paper aims to clearly define their motivation behind going independent, as they sought to tackle taboo subjects such as female sexuality in a way that was previously impossible. Following this, film analysis of A Story Written with Water (1965) will examine the implementation of this subversive style, emphasising how Okada’s star image begins to unravel, ushering in a new form of filmmaking.

Jonathan Mark Hall, “Turning Queer Circles in Japanese Film Studies”

Both within academe and in popular criticism, diverse national film studies traditions experienced in the 1990s what can be called their queer turns. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the intersection of feminist film theory and new queer cinema movements engendered both explicit scholarship on contemporaneous LGBT cinema as well as queer reappraisals of traditional national canons, their lists of hallowed auteurs, and the complicity of their archival silences. Yet, excluding a few notably incisive interventions, humanities- and literary-based approaches in Japanese film studies never experienced their own coming out, and scholarly engagement with queer Japanese media tends to be concentrated within the social sciences. Japan is the only democratic advanced economy that does not recognize same-sex marriage. Is it patriarchal Japanese values that have contributed to this lacuna? Or is homo-fascism that has frightened away progressive academics? Or Is it the hetero/sexual origins of the Japanese New Wave that have ironically ensconced the homosexual discomfort that remains in force today? This paper uses sources from cinema, television, and film criticism from the 1960s through today, all largely ignored by Japanese film studies, to re-imagine the long-missing queer turn in our field.

Rio Katayama, “(De)Constructing ‘Japan-ness’ through the Depiction of the ‘New Normal’”

In my project, I explore the (un)changing borders and boundaries of representations in Japanese cinema through the portrayal of pandemic. More specifically, by analyzing a documentary film Tokyo Jitensha Bushi (Tokyo Uber Blues, 2021) by Aoyagi Taku and a feature film Akaneiro ni Yakareru (A Madder Red, 2021) by Ishii Yûya, my project considers how media contribute/resist the construction of “Japan-ness.” During the pandemic, although there were no lawful repercussions to the government’s State of Emergency, Japan managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases relatively low. Media repeatedly stressed “Japan-ness” by glorifying the Japanese citizens for masking up and prioritizing collective needs, while tremendous peer pressure to follow the expected protocols in public had been exercised. Beneath the façade of positive outcome, there were many who suffered from the accelerated poverty, yet remained less visible from the society. By presenting the consumed bodies of the protagonists, the directors of the two movies portray the struggles of living in the “New Normal” and unfold the institutionalized inequity as a byproduct of constructing/preserving “Japan-ness.”

Panel 5: “Transnational Cosmopolitanisms”

Thursday June 13th, 09:00-10:30

Mieko Anders, “‘In the Ikiru Mode’: Akira Kurosawa and the Contemporary Anglophone Novel”

As post-imperial island nations, England and Japan have long been subject to comparison on the basis of their parallel histories of expansionist violence. This paper seeks to develop this England-Japan comparative frame through and beyond the postwar period—and perhaps even beyond the rubric of “empire” as such—by tracing the influence of Akira Kurosawa’s work on contemporary Anglophone literature. In particular, I focus on the ways in which Kurosawa’s films (Ikiru and Seven Samurai) have served as essential inspiration for two widely-acclaimed Anglophone novels: Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005), and Helen Dewitt’s The Last Samurai (2000). I show how, in adapting Kurosawa to the page, both novels paint a picture of late-twentieth-century Thatcherite England as refracted through the cinematic aesthetics of developmentalist (in the sense of Chalmers Johnson’s “developmental state”) postwar Japan. What emerges is a kind of nostalgia for (Japanese) developmental capitalism in the face of (British) neoliberal austerity. I propose that tracing transformations of Kurosawa’s work across genre and geography in this way might help build a more robust framework for thinking about the Japan-England nexus in terms of the global aesthetic and material developments of late capitalism. 

Kevin McKiernan, “1960s Japanese Cinema through a Tricontinental Framework”

In this paper, I argue for looking at Japanese cinema of the 1960s through a tricontinental framework. First formulated in 1967, Glauber Rocha’s model of revolutionary cinema untethers cinema from the nation-state model and places films from supposedly disparate locations in a dialogue informed by radical ideology and praxis. Advocating for a style of filmmaking contrary to Hollywood and Soviet socialist realism, Rocha’s tricontinental idea was able to span continents, and his assertions resonated with many Japanese filmmakers. One of the major global themes throughout the 1960s, I argue, is a repudiation of anti-Black racism. As we see in Kurahara Koreyoshi’s understudied Black Sun, anti-Black racism was also at the forefront of radical Japanese cinema. Through the use of photographs and embodying the perspective of a Black American GI, Kurahara implicates the Japanese nation state in the global scourge of anti- Black racism. Contemporary with such films as Ousmene Sembene’s Black Girl, Black Sun demonstrates the simultaneity of films that repudiate anti-Black racism in a non-Euro-American setting. Kurahara makes the supposedly American question of anti-Black racism a Japanese one. Indeed, discourse surrounding race renders the discussion of “periphery” and “center” irrelevant. Race constituted a global discourse that appeared everywhere, including Japan.

Cerise Jackson, “Stories Beyond Japan: The Emergence of Black Anime from Afro-Samurai to Children of Ether”

The emergence of the #blackanime movement, following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, identified the extent to which anime culture had become enmeshed with black diasporic expressivity and political activism. However, despite the virality of the movement both online and offline, little has been said on the topic in Japanese Studies or Anime Studies academia. 

In this presentation two Black Anime, Afro Samurai: Resurrection (2009) and Children of Ether (2017), identify how existent research methods have failed to fully engage with anime beyond Japan and specifically with anime in black spaces. It will suggest that intersemiotic translation offers a framework for acknowledging the labour and expertise involved in the emergence of the black anime genre.

Beginning with an iconic film in the Black Anime catalogue, Afro Samurai: Resurrection demonstrates the seamless translation of black and anime cultural forms. While it is one of the few to be acknowledged as anime proper, owing to the film’s Japanese director Takashi Okazaki, its black contributors have been notably overlooked in academic research. A decade later, African-American anime creator LeSean Thomas released the short-film Children of Ether on Crunchyroll. Thomas’s Afro-Latinx narratives and protagonists pushed the needle of anime again further from the locus of Japan, while maintaining an undeniable execution of Japanese anime stylistics.

Black anime provides opportunities to create a more equitable space within Japanese Studies research for diasporic and non-Japanese contributors –– who are, and always have been, essential to the evolution and proliferation of the artform worldwide. 

Panel 6: “Pop Culture and its Affects”

Thursday June 13th, 09:00-10:30

Yuki Watanabe, “Con Games and Cinematic Celebration of Triumph and Conquest: Exploring the Boundaries in Post-colonial Japan through the ‘Confidence Man JP’ Trilogy”

This paper examines the recent popular film trilogy, The Confidence Man JP (Tanaka, 2018, 2020, and 2022). Amidst Japan’s economic decline in Asia, exacerbated by demographic challenges and cultural shifts, the films intricately negotiate Japan’s post-colonial influence through the lens of con artistry, addressing economic, political, and cultural boundaries and its sphere of influence. A trio of con artists, the carefree leader Dako and her male accomplices, employ a blend of cunning and business acumen, displaying a practical wisdom reflective of the concept of ‘phronesis’ (Kupfer, 2023). Originally started as a weekly prime-time TV series set in Japan, the film version takes the trio overseas, from Hong Kong to Malaysia and then to Europe, mirroring Japan’s pre-WWII imperial expansion. In their capers, moral ambiguity is challenged, presenting the con game as an inventive means to navigate a corrupted neoliberal economy. Drawing from Lindop’s insights on femme fatale in film noir (2015), this paper contends that the Confidence Man JP trilogy temporarily restores a (distorted) sense of ‘confidence’ in a post-colonial, neoliberal Japan through a hyperbolic and carnivalesque celebration of triumph and conquest. This cinematic journey provides a nuanced response to persistent social anxieties, offering a compelling commentary on the financial uncertainty of contemporary Japan.

Erica Ka-yan Poon, “A Cosmopolitan Dimension of ‘Japanese’ Cinema: Manhunt Adopts Nikkatsu Borderless Film Style”

Manhunt (John Woo, 2017) is a co-production adapted from a Japanese novel titled Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare, which was previously adapted into a film (Sato Junya, 1976) starring Takakura Ken. Hong Kong director John Woo decided to produce this film to commemorate Takakura, with Fukuyama Masahara as one of the main leads and a mixed Chinese and Japanese cast. The film was shot in Osaka, and half of the production team are Japanese members. Despite the Japanese elements, the film is not an official Japanese co-production. The paper attempts to use Manhunt as a critical example to rethink what constitutes “Japanese” co-production. It continues the discussion by Daisuke Miyao (2019) in “How can we talk about ‘transnational’ when we talk about Japanese cinema?” He exemplifies that the concept of transnational cinema cannot solve the problem that Japanese cinema is assumed as a national cinema. The paper argues that the idea of cosmopolitanism further challenges the notion of Japanese cinema’s reflecting a unified culture. Manhunt adopts the Nikkatsu mukokuseki (borderless) film style that borrows elements from global hits to give films an international façade. It brings a cosmopolitan dimension to “Japanese” cinema to appeal to pan-Asian audiences.

Moe Fujiwara, “Who/What is Sadako? Connections Between Meiji Women, J-Horror Ghosts, and Pop Culture Icons”

The genre and movement known as “J-horror” blossomed in 1990s Japan, captivating audiences with its eerie and static fear. Ringu (1998) stands out as a representative J-horror work, and in the movie, there is the iconic J-horror ghost, Sadako. The scene where she crawls out of a television screen lingers in people’s memories, even if the movie’s plot fades. The presence of Sadako can be traced back to the Meiji era, specifically with figures like Mifune Chizuko and Takahashi Sadako, who claimed psychic abilities but weren’t believed, ultimately consumed for spectacles. Thus, in the source of Ringu, there exist real women who were unable to accept their own claims. On the other hand, today, Sadako has become a pop culture icon. In 2012, the promotion of Sadako 3D saw a significant shift. For example, on social media, “Sadako’s account” uploaded humorous images contrasting the traditional spooky image and bleached the real history she carried. In this paper, I will focus on the ghost Sadako and spotlight the ambiguous boundaries between actual history and horror fiction in Japan, as well as between horror and humor. Through this exploration, it becomes possible to reconsider the edge and scope of J-horror.

Panel 7: “Mixed Media and the Extra-Cinematic”

Thursday June 13th, 10:45-12:15

Irena Hayter, “On Clothes and Japanese Film: Three Fragments from a Fashionable Discourse”

This paper will attempt to think through the structural, ontological and historical connections between fashion and the Japanese cinema, beyond more established avenues of inquiry such as costume and product placement. I focus on three films that are radically different in terms of the time they were made, their genre and visual language: a fragment from a Shiseido film of fashion models walking on the Ginza in 1932, Ishikawa Jun’s Tony Takitani (2004) and Seed (2016), a short film directed by Naomi Kawase that was commissioned by the fashion label Miu Miu. All three provide insights about their respective cultural-historical moments: about urban spectacle and the rationalization of bodies in the 1930s; about precarity, millennial consumerism and the care of the self through possessions. Importantly, they also enact the complex entanglements between fashion and film (as theorised by D’ Aloya et al. (2017), Bruno (2014) and Leslie (2013)): both are transitory, haptic and kinaesthetic forms animated by colour and cut, revolving around motifs of masquerade and transformation. The paper aims to add to the ongoing repositioning of the study of Japanese film towards other social performative practices and within larger perceptual fields. 

Colleen Laird, “Japanese Cinema and Videographic Scholarship”

Although some scholars have been practising videographic criticism for over twenty years and many of the pioneers of the form worked with actual film in the pre-digital age, videographic scholarship is an as-yet emerging form in film, media, and digital humanities studies. In the last decade, and particularly during the pandemic, audiovisual essays (or “video essays”) have proliferated across public and public-facing platforms as well as in digital peer-reviewed journals. This has resulted in the creation of new sub-genres of the form (e.g. the desktop documentary, videographic deformations, the supercut, the epigraph, and embodied performances/interactions), as well as a diversification of creators (e.g. scholars, artists, YouTubers, cinephiles, and of course intersections thereof). The diversification of the video essay, which was never crystalized in form to begin with, has inspired numerous debates, articles, and, yes, video essays to ask and analyze just what is a video essay? In this hybrid presentation that is designed discursively as both a video essay and a spoken presentation, I will discuss some of the differences between the “video essay” and “videographic criticism,” as well as my stake as en emerging videographic scholar: what might Japanese Cinema Studies have to offer videographic criticism?

Hideaki Fujiki, “An Ensemble of Ecology: Ichikawa Kon’s Cinema of Project at Expo ’70”

From the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Ichikawa Kon was active to make what can be called the cinema of project, or a cinema that was made for a larger project such as Tokyo Olympics 1964 and the Japanese World Exposition, Osaka, 1970 (aka Expo ’70). This presentation focuses on the recently discovered cinema of project, Nihon to Nihonjin (Japan and the Japanese), which he made for the screen of the vast size and special shape – sixteen meters long and forty-eight meters wide – in the Japanese National Pavilion at Expo ’70, and explores what aesthetic elaborations it enacts and what tension it would bring about vis-à-vis the national and commercial institutions. I argue that Japan and the Japanese enacted a rhythmic ensemble of audio-visual and affective images that, despite the impression the title might give, deconstructed the monolithic meaning of the mountain and instead reconstructed it as part of an ecology under the material and technological conditions specific to the vast screen in the Japanese National Pavilion at Expo ‘70.

Panel 8: “The Politics of Solidarity”

Thursday June 13th, 10:45-12:15

Alejandra Armendariz-Hernandez, “Transnational Film Connections between Japan and Latin America Cinema, Revolution and Cuban Japanese co-productions”

This paper is part of a larger project examining the cinematic connections between Japan and Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century in terms of production, distribution and exhibition practices as well as what is represented in films. The purpose of this project is threefold. Firstly, to explore the transnational dimensions of Japanese cinema in the specific geographical and cultural contexts of Latin American countries expanding the comparative scope of research beyond Asia, United States and Europe. Secondly, to analyse the relationship between Japan and Latin America cinemas in terms of film criticism and theory taking into consideration their historical and political position in the global arena, in particular regarding the United States and the Cold War politics. Thirdly, to study the construction and representation of the Nikkei (Japanese immigrants to Latin American countries and its descendants) identities in films made in Japan and Latin America by Nikkei, Japanese and Latin American filmmakers. Despite the many differences between and within Japan and Latin-American countries, cultures and cinemas of these nations have historically held a similar position – that of the Other – in the dialectical and power relations with the Anglo-European West, particularly the United States. If Japan is often trapped within the dichotomy of East-West, so does Latin America in relation to North-America and Western Europe, with Latin American countries more often considered in terms of North-South, or the so-called Global South, rather than part of the West. Decentring these approaches and disrupting the national framework in the study of Japanese and Latin American cinemas, this project aims to reveal “a history of fragments, structured by disjuncture”1 illuminating new screen worlds and connections between these different regions in Asia and South America. As a case study, I will focus on the first goal of the project, the transnational dimensions of Japanese cinema, analysing two Cuban Japanese co-productions that depict Cuban Revolution from a Japanese perspective, A Cuban Lover (Kyūba no koibito, Kuroki Kazuo, 1969) and Ernesto (Erunesuto, Sakamoto Junji, 2017). Looking at the transnational dynamics regarding their production, distribution and exhibition as well as their representation of the Cuban Revolution, this paper will argue for a fragmented yet significative history of Japanese cinema as a transnational practice and will expose the place of the Cuban Revolution as a mythical space of triumph against US in relation with Japan´s students and anti-nuclear movements. 

Antonella Morgillo, “Cinematic Narratives of Indigeneity: Ainu Culture in Ethnographic Film”

This study examines the politics surrounding the representation of indigeneity in ethnographic cinema about the Ainu, with a particular focus on the film The Kamui Iomande, produced in the 1930s by the self-taught ethnographer and naturalized Japanese, Neil G. Munro. Munro’s film holds considerable significance as it captures a traditional Ainu ritual known as “the Bear Festival”, which is regarded as one of the key ceremonies within Ainu culture. A central argument posited in this research is that Munro’s distinctive approach to addressing indigeneity within his ethnographic filmmaking departs from the conventional norms of early ethnographic cinema which contributed to the further marginalization of indigenous peoples by portraying them as subaltern “others”, thereby positioning Munro as an innovative figure in the field. In the 1960s, Munro’s original film was edited by a group of Japanese personalities, resulting in a much-shortened version with questionable English voice-over commentary. This subsequent rendition of the film presents Ainu culture through a heavily colonialist lens, depicting it as distinct from Japanese culture and subtly echoing the socio-political discourses prevalent in post-war Japan regarding ethnic minorities. By the 1960s, the Japanese government had adopted a policy of complete assimilation of the Ainu people, yet this revised version of the film continues to underscore the perceived differences between the Ainu and the Japanese. The emphasis on difference is crucial to understanding the link between ethnographic cinema and shifting notions of national identity in response to social and political circumstances, irrespective of a film’s ability to faithfully represent indigenous culture.

Kosuke Fujiki, “Compassion for the Okinawan Other: Sociopolitical References in the Film Adaptation of The Pig’s Retribution”

Throughout his career, Korean-Japanese filmmaker Sai Yōichi shot five of his films in Okinawa: Let Him Rest in Peace (1985), Via Okinawa (1989), Burning Dog (1991), The Pig’s Retribution (1999) and Kamui (2009). Although the first three films exhibit his interest in the presence of the US military in Okinawa and its sociopolitical ramifications on people’s everyday lives, the latter two could be seen as less concerned with the islands’ sociopolitical issues: The Pig’s Retribution, adapted from a novel by Okinawan novelist Matayoshi Eiki, revolves around Okinawa’s traditional religious practices, while in Kamui, a comic adaptation set in premodern Japan, Okinawa serves merely as a filming location. However, a closer look at The Pig’s Retribution reveals that this literary adaptation is imbued with references to the US military occupation of Okinawa, which make the film grounded even more deeply in the postwar history of the islands than its source novel. Through comparison between the film and Matayoshi’s novel, this paper demonstrates that Sai’s adaptation of The Pig’s Retribution is characterised by a scrutinising and compassionate eye on the sociopolitical predicament of Japan’s internal Other, arguably stemming from the filmmaker’s Zainichi Korean background.

Lightning Round Presentation Abstracts

Lightning round panels feature short “provocation papers” of 10 minutes each, grouped by theme into rounds of 3. A 60 minute Q&A and discussion will follow.

Lightning Round 1: “Time, Space, Atmosphere”

Friday June 14th, 09:00-10:30

Kirsten Seuffert, “Archives, Atmospheres, and Alcohol: Cruising the Mediated Casual in Tokyo Bar Culture”

This paper explores the intersection of cinema and media studies with Japan’s bar and snack culture, focusing on research as an embodied practice and cinema-themed establishments as spaces in which to both drink and “drink in” media. Particularly in terms of “non-mainstream” or less critically valued content—which is difficult to access in standard archives—these spaces provide alternative, “non-elite” research experiences that are sensorially rich, somewhat liberated from institutional hassles and social hierarchies, and full of potential for forming new connections between media and individuals. Examining several Tokyo-area bars, I map out a variety of spaces that share key characteristics: they are multimedia in nature; filled with contingency; curated yet participatory; and precarious in terms of longevity and potentially negative effects on bodies that work and play in them. As “fringe” spaces, these bars function as casual media nexuses whose atmospheres and affordances can destabilize boundaries between, e.g., media, genres, research and leisure, expertise and fandom, and national media spheres. As such, they constitute a supplement in the Derridean sense—adding to the “plenitude” offered by more traditional research methods while replacing them with novel, unpredictable experiences that are potentially more generative, inclusive, and inspirational.

Brooke McCallum, “Checking In on Hotel Hibiscus: Peripheral Identities and Internalized Threat in Millennial Okinawan Cinema”

The tropical heat and generous light that illuminate the Okinawan prefectural map in Japanese cinema belie its role as a site of intimate wartime wounding, as well as a continued imbrication in the territorial precarity that now shades life in the South China Sea. This paper presages that conflict by considering the work of mainland Japanese directors Iwai Shunji and Nakae Yūji, whose About Lily Chou-Chou (2001) and Hotel Hibiscus (2002) drew arthouse acclaim to a space held at some historical distance from the mainland scene. Yet in adapting Okinawan stories for the screen and situating surreal adolescent drama among its outer islands, these works underscore the very strangeness that lingers and haunts inhabitants for whom the mantle of Japanese citizenship is at once a dark memory and a precarious mantle today. Considering alongside Ōtsuka Eiji whether yet another ‘Japanese self-image’ is being assembled here, we will explore how and to what end the imagining of nationality at the frontier—the front line—and the very fringe of what it means to be and feel ‘Japanese’ remains on call two decades on, as fears of international conflict hold Okinawa in reluctant focus.

Junko Yamazaki, “Anachronism as Method”

From the transcultural mimesis of 1930s cinema to the homelessness of postmodern exploitation cinema, and from the anachronism of jidaigeki to the transhistorical aspiration of contemporary anime, Japanese cinema abounds with instances of anachronism and anatopism. By critically examining these instances of anachronism and anatopism, scholars have unsettled the differences and boundaries between here and there, and past and present, leading to new ways of thinking and doing Japanese film studies. This presentation seeks to explore the manifold ways in which anachronism provides insights into the complexity, multiplicity and plasticity of Japanese cinema as time-objects. As a method, anachronism puts pressure on the existing historiography and its premises, disrupting the temporal order that institutes and maintains the norms of intelligibility of images. How does anachronism help us rethink the telling of Japanese cinema’s history? By evoking a sense of the term “anachronism,” that is close to its original meaning—“against-time,” we may also ask what it means to watch and study Japanese cinema outside its time. I address these questions by drawing on my own practices of reading in jidaigeki films, but I also welcome the opportunity to organize a lightning round panel with other participants and work with more diverse examples. 

Lightning Round 2: “Rethinking (Cinema-)Truth”

Friday June 14th, 10:45-12:15

Ran Wei, “A Film of the People, By the People, and For the People: Social Justice and Community Building in The Kamagasaki Cauldron War (2017)”

Set in Osaka’s biggest day-labor area, Kamagasaki, the 16mm film The Kamagasaki

Cauldron War (2017) features a war about a stolen treasured cauldron among different groups including day-laborers, prostitutes, and gangsters. The film uses the stolen cauldron to evoke the shrinking living space of the local people in Kamagasaki as many of them are forcibly evicted from their homeland by the Osaka government and are subject to unemployment and homelessness brought by neoliberalism. Previous studies have argued that the director Satō Leo’s choice of 16mm film is mainly influenced by his mentor Yasui Yoshio (Ogawa, 2020). In contrast, I examine how Satō’s project involves his aesthetic, ethnic, technological, and social concerns. During the filming process, Satō started a soup kitchen which he still runs today. In the film, Satō includes uninterrupted long shots that document day laborers waiting at the soup kitchen and the unhoused people sleeping at the social welfare center as a way to manifest his philosophy of social inclusion. I argue that Satō’s decision to include the actual and unfiltered urban and human landscape of Kamagasaki is inseparable from his opposition to physical and social exclusion (haijo) and his dedication to social activism. Therefore, both the filming and screening process create a space to connect the crew and the local people.

Caitlin Casiello, “Sex/Art/Youth Document: Sexploitation Documentary as a Peek at Japan’s 1960s”

This paper looks at the mode of documentary/pseudo-documentary as erotic cinema in sexploitation (pink or “pinky”) films of the late 1960s and early 1970s through an analysis of Toei’s Sex Document series. This series challenges boundaries between documentary and narrative cinema, pornographic and non-pornographic media, and the uses of the erotic for art versus arousal. Through the series’s presentation of itself as a documentary of Japanese sexual practices, it also serves to define the nature of “Japanese” sex versus imported sexuality seen in American and European films. The first in the series, にっぽん69セックス猟奇地帯 Nippon ‘69 Strange Sex Zone Hunt (dir. Nakajima Sadao) draws on the erotic magazine genre of “猟奇” or “hunting for strangeness” which had flourished since the post-war period in order to examine the flourishing of youth culture and art we associate with the global 1968 movement. By contextualizing this movement within a sexploitation documentary, it demonstrates how what we consider an artistic movement can simultaneously be seen as an erotic/pornographic one and that this layering of “art” and “pornography” is a source of wild vibrancy, expansive and manic, yet nonetheless consumable and objectifiable.

Eleanor Xuhui Zhang, “Alienated Apparatus, Dangerous Ambition: Microscope and the Search for Vision in Shōhei Imamura’s Dr. Akagi (1998)”

Looking at the presentation and connotations of the microscope in Shōhei Imamura’s Dr. Akagi, my paper seeks to reunite the symbolic filmic apparatus in Japanese Cinema with the concrete, material one, reading the ‘apparatus’ alongside equipment of filmmaking and film screening in their historical contexts. I argue that Dr. Akagi’s makeshift microscope, which is operated with a film projector lamp and by a Dutch camera engineer, eventually vandalised and confiscated by the wartime military, is coded with memories of the cinematic apparatus at different points in Japanese history. The amalgamation of the microscope with a projector lamp, for instance, is reminiscent of cinema’s early reception in Japan during the Meiji era, when film was introduced and exhibited alongside Western visual innovations of medical sciences (such as radiography) as a means to unhindered vision into the human body. Dr. Akagi, in the end, smashes his microscope in favour of a visual-less fight with hepatitis, renouncing it as something addictive and corruptive. Dissecting the apparatus as a collection of references to Japanese cinema’s troubled past, I will show that Imamura’s microscope offers new possibilities for challenging Barthes’s camera lucida: that there is a danger in the insatiable desire for visual truth. 

Lightning Round 3: “The Nation and Its Discontents”

Friday June 14th, 13:00-14:30

Lola Martinez, “Hollywood Does Japan”

There are various ways in which Hollywood movies have engaged with Japan and the Japanese: from Sessue Hayakawa as lover and villain in the silent film area; to Mr Moto the inscrutable detective; Japan as the WWII enemy; to admiring and remaking Kurosawa films; building a cult around actors like Toshiro Mifune and Beat Takeshi; and (yet again) admiring and remaking Japanese monster and horror films, we can trace a century of engagement with the nation that may have culminated with the recent love for Studio Ghibli. This paper however will focus on a brief period at the end of the twentieth century when Hollywood produced two films, Black Rain and Rising Sun, that spoke to a new form of anti-Japanese sentiment while, at the very same time, seeming to admire aspects of Japanese culture. At the core of the paper is an attempt to understand not just how Japan has been stereotyped, but also how it has been incorporated into the fabric of what it means to be not Japanese, that is, what it means to be American, albeit one who ‘can do Japan’. I ask: What sort of transgressions and border crossing does such an imagined ability involve?

Aaron Gerow, “War and Theory: The Case of Tsumura Hideo”

Researching the example of Japanese film theory can be one means of countering the imperial pretensions of Euro- and American-centric film theory, but Japanese film thought itself must also be understood as imbricated with processes of nationalism and colonialism. Japanese film theory can represent modern Japan’s conflicted position as both colonizer of Asia and subject to neo-colonial pressures from Europe and America. The case of Tsumura Hideo can help illustrate this dynamic. One of Japan’s most celebrated film critics, noted as a champion of Mizoguchi, he was also the film thinker in the vanguard of advancing Japan’s imperial intentions in World War II. Hase Masato has discussed the contradictions of a theorist who, on the one hand, could seem to align with the French New Wave in his view of cinema, but on the other, advocate cinema as a tool of war. I would like to go further and think how this may be less a contradiction, than a core element of Japanese film theory. 

Paride Stortini, “Between Japan and India, Mythology and Anime: The 1992 Anime Ramayana, The Legend of Prince Rama”

The 1992 anime film Ramayana, The Legend of Prince Rama offers a laboratory to question the meaning of “Japanese film,” as well as to explore the potential reciprocal contribution of film and media theory and religious studies. Both the production and the reception of this anime at two different moments (its first release in the early 1990s and then it’s re-mastered release in 2022) can reveal aspects of the intersection between the popular medium of Japanese anime in a different cultural context (India), and the political and religious sensitivity of retelling Hindu mythology. While Ram Mohan, “the father of Indian animation,” was involved as co-director, the failure of the first release has been interpreted as a lost chance in the development of this film medium in India. On the other hand, the direct support of the 2022 re-release by Prime Minister Modi can point to a change of attitude of Hindu nationalism toward the adaptation of the Ramayana epic into the popular medium of anime. The presentation will build on film and media theory, but also suggest a way religious studies theory can contribute to understanding audience reception of film in a transnational context.

Roundtable Presentations

Roundtable 1: “Writing Difference”

Wednesday June 12th, 13:00-14:30

Presenters: Markus Nornes; Becca Voelcker; Julia Alekseyeva

Roundtable 2: “The Boundaries of Space and Place in Japanese Cinema”

Thursday June 13th, 13:00-14:30

Presenters: Alastair Phillips; Colleen Laird; Jasper Sharp; George Crosthwait